Grimsby Town goalkeeper James McKeown has been full of praise for teammates Craig Disley and Shaun Pearson as they both leave the club this summer.
The pair will leave after spending six years each at Blundell Park, and McKeown admitted he’ll be sad to see them go.
The 27-year-old said: “Someone said to me a while ago about not making friends in football because you’re like ships in the night, but that’s really not been the case – especially with us three (Craig Disley and Shaun Pearson).
“We’ve still got a couple of group chats going, from the year we got promoted and the year before, that the lads still speak in, which shows how close we were as a group, and then it was probably the next level with them two.
“They’re great people (Disley and Pearson), if you meet them. I think they can offer you a lot off-the-pitch and on it as well. If I ever had to pick an 11 of anyone I’ve ever played with in my career, even when I was at Peterborough in the Championship, I’d put them both in it because of their level of consistency that they gave us over time.
“I’m arranging Shaun’s stag do so that’s kept me occupied. It’s part and parcel of football, and someday I will go and someday the manager will go, and the staff will go but the two constants are obviously the football club and the fans. They’ll always be here.
“You know that day is always going to come (that you leave the club), but I don’t think you ever quite want it to come. And obviously everyone has their own opinions on who should stay and who should go, and that’s probably the joy of football that everyone can have that opinion.
“But just from the off-the-pitch point of view for me, it will be a shame. I’ve got to find someone else to room with me who’s going to put up with how weird I am, and Shaun’s got to find someone to room with him.
“You move on but I think we’ll always stay good friends because of what we’ve done here, and we achieved something here which we set out to do when we signed, so we’ll always have that special memory.”
The keeper also spoke to iFollow about Town’s first season back in the EFL and reflected on his own personal journey.
“It was a strange season for a lot of people in a lot of different ways. If I look at myself, there’s no getting away from the fact there was a spell that was very tough. When I walked out here against Morecambe and we won 2-0, what a feeling that was to get the club back in the Football League, and see the smiles on people’s faces.
“You do get memories that live with you, and walking out and hearing the atmosphere, it was a joy and almost like a relief, and to win 2-0 and for me to keep a clean sheet it was just a fantastic day. I played a lot of games and then I was out for a spell.
“I didn’t realise at the time, but I basically missed January, and it felt a lot longer at the time. It was something different and there were other circumstances, and then the new manager (Russell Slade) came in and I’ve got to say it’s been really enjoyable.
“And next year, if you look at what we’ve got as a club at the moment – the manager, the staff, the players, and you look at other clubs who competed in the play-offs, there’s no reason that Grimsby Town shouldn’t be fighting at that end of the table throughout the whole season.
“The longer I’ve lived in this town and played with these fans, I think if you give your best for them that’s all they ever want. And next year we can draw on experiences – it’s not going to be perfect over 46 games plus cup matches, you’re going to have bad times, and the older you get, you draw on those experiences.
“And if I’m completely honest, when I came back into the side against Luton, and I know we drew and I conceded, but I felt like I proved a little bit of a point that I’m not the worst goalkeeper in the world.
“I know I don’t always get it right, but that game I felt like I was under a lot of pressure, and I know I caused some of it by myself, but whenever I step foot on that pitch for this football club I’ll always give it my all,” he said.
And he went on to express his excitement and anticipation to start the 2017/18 campaign under new boss Russell Slade and assistant manager Paul Wilkinson.
He said: “I walked out of my meeting with the gaffer very happy from what they said to me. They seemed quite pleased with me. Hopefully I can achieve what he wants me to achieve, and there’s that demand there that I know that I’ve got to be at my best every day.
“There’ll be competition next year and I’ve got to ensure that I rise to it and I’m good enough for that competition.”
The Town squad will return for pre-season training on Monday, June 26.